By Gertrude Bacon 1905
The Authoress, her Father, and Mr. Spencer making an Ascent.
Such strength a man has never possessed, or can ever hope to; but even as it is, by long practice and great effort, men have succeeded at different times, not exactly in flying, but in helping themselves along considerably by means of wings. A man is said to have flown in this way in Rome in the days of Nero. A monk in the Middle Ages, named Elmerus, it is stated, flew about a furlong from the top of a tower in Spain, another from St. Mark’s steeple in Venice, and another from Nuremburg. 13 But the most successful attempt ever made in this direction was accomplished about 200 years ago by a French locksmith of the name of Besnier. He had made for himself a pair of light wooden oars, shaped like the double paddle of a canoe, with cup-like blades at either end. These he placed over his shoulders, and attached also to his feet, and then casting himself off from some high place, and violently working his arms and legs so as to buffet the air downwards with his paddles, he was able to raise himself by short stages from one height to another, or skim lightly over a field or river. It is said that subsequently Besnier sold his oars to a mountebank, who performed most successfully with them at fairs and festivals.